Books

XMEN: Magneto—Testament by Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico is the kind of book I feel guilty about not liking much. Starting with a youth named Max in 1930s Germany (if the title doesn’t clue you in, I will: he’s going to grow up to be Magneto), it follows him through Kristallnacht, genocide and death camps (where stays alive, as some Jews did, by working to clean out the crematoriums) before he finally escapes with Magda, a Roma concentration-camp prisoner he’s fallen in love with. This is very well researched, but it doesn’t do anything that other tales of the Holocaust haven’t done many times. And while I respect the creators’ desire to keep it realistic by not including any super-elements (Magneto’s powers are minimalized), that also makes the connection to the Marvel Universe (where super-beings were actively involved in the war on both sides) tenuous. Admirable intentions, but it felt more earnest than good.
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COYOTE Vol. 2 by Steve Englehart and multiple artists chronicles the battles of Sly, a shapeshifter, against the sinister Shadow Cabinet along with his efforts to figure out what connection, if any he has to the original Coyote the trickster god.Fun, but another villain, the Djinn, is a stock Islamic terrorist type and making him the modern leader of the medieval Hashashin was a mistake (as the sect, the Nizar Ismaili, is still around, which the story ignores).
APPEASEMENT IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS by Stephen Rock argues that defining appeasement by Chamberlain’s efforts to talk Hitler back from war simplifies a policy with a long history and several successes, such as Britain winning over the US in the 1890s by conceding on several key issues such as the Canada/Alaska border. Rock says this is a textbook example of when appeasement can work: Britain didn’t give away anything it considered vital (being much more concerned about its European enemies), correctly observed that America could be appeased and that the real issue was as much the US wanting to be taken as a Great Power as the specific problems. In contrast, Chamberlain at Munich not only misread Hitler, but even after realizing it took little steps to prepare for war. However, Rock says, even there history gets it wrong, as Britain and France did threaten war if Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia instead of just taking part of it (Hitler considered Munich a defeat), and Germany invaded Poland in full awareness that Britain and France wouldn’t back off. A good analysis of an often-simplified issue.
Like The Lie That Settles, my interest in MODERNITY BRITAIN: Opening the Box, 1957-59 by David Kynaston is personal as I was born in 1958. Part of an ongoing series on post-WW II Britain, the book presents an era when television is the new cool thing, redevelopment and slum clearance were promoting heated debates and the question of whether Britain was or could be something called “meritocracy” was also the subject of much discussion. Kynaston mixes the big issues with a kaleidoscope of plays, social events, best-selling books and names dropped, such as a promising new actor named Judi Dench and a very unpromising new playwright (in the consensus of the critics) named Harold Pinter, plus a member of Parliament named Maggie Thatcher. Entertaining for the most part (and if I were writing anything in Britain in the era, invaluable), but as it’s part of a series (Tales of New Jerusalem) Kynaston doesn’t always bother with context: even as a former British schoolboy, a lot of the issues discussed in his section on schools went over my head.

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